The Housing Executive has warned would-be housing cheats that it is tackling tenancy fraud head on.
The warning comes after a tenant in south Belfast was given a three-month suspended jail term for subletting his NIHE property as part of a benefits scam - the first successful prosecution of social housing tenancy fraud in Northern Ireland.
So far this year, unannounced checks by Housing Executive staff ensured that 192 properties were successfully recovered across Northern Ireland, including 12 in Newtownabbey.
Those homes have now been re-allocated to tenants in real need and who have been on the social housing waiting list.
Sharon Crooks, Housing Executive Area Manager for South Antrim, said: “We need the support of local residents. While some homes may appear unoccupied, for example the tenant may be in hospital, there are properties which are not being used or lived in. With over 21,000 on the housing waiting list in urgent need of accommodation, it is very important we maximise the use of all our housing stock.”
She added: “It’s in everybody’s interest to stop this happening. This could be stopping you or someone you know from getting a home. It could also be evidence that benefit fraud is being committed.
“If you suspect someone is a housing cheat, please let us know, either online at www.nihe.gov.uk or by telephoning 03448 920 900. It could make a real difference.
“Anything you tell us will be held in the strictest confidence. You do not need to leave your name or details.
“We will investigate your concerns and the necessary action will be taken. Anyone caught committing fraud is likely to lose their tenancy and could also, in some cases, be disqualified from applying for social housing in the future. They could also be fined and possibly sent to prison. The Housing Executive will then also be able to make the property available to a family who need it most.”